School Bus Alternatives for Special Needs Students
published on December 08, 2020 by Sonia Mastros
While the specifics vary from state to state, school districts are universally required to provide transportation to and from school for every student. Most students are simply transported on standard school buses, but there are exceptions - particularly where special needs students are concerned.
Some students are behaviorally unfit to ride on the same bus as everyone else, others have special medical needs, and there are plenty of other unusual situations besides. How do districts deal with the transportation of special needs students? These are some of the most common solutions.
Transporting Special Needs Students Who Can't Ride Regular School Buses
The most common alternative to standard school buses are the "short buses," a single bus dedicated to transporting special needs kids. This can be a workable solution in smaller districts, but it can cause problems when there is a lot of ground to cover. Buses need to transport students in a reasonable amount of time, and anything much over an hour is hard to justify - especially for students with health or behavioral issues.
On the other hand, it's relatively easy to mount devices such as wheelchair lifts into small buses, so this can be a good solution for students with mobility issues.
Some districts have begun utilizing smaller passenger-class vehicles, such as minivans, to transport special needs students. Since most districts have a few auxiliary vehicles in their fleet, this can be a good way to handle special cases where just a handful of students need accommodation. However, it's vital that these vehicles be brought up-to-code! They have to adhere to all the same safety standards as any other form of student conveyance, and that can sometimes mean costly upgrades.
School districts have even been known to enlist the assistance of local taxi companies, particularly in situations where one single special-needs student is located far away from any other students.
Another option is to put special-needs students onto buses, but with minders alongside them to help. This can be a great way to overcome difficulties relating to physical difficulties - such as assisting students in wheelchairs. Adult minders can also assist with behavioral issues as well, and prevent those students from distracting the driver. The challenge here is simply that extra adults on the bus add expense, and take away room for other students.
In short, there's no magic bullet for handling special needs students who can't ride standard buses. Creative custom solutions are often called for.
How does your district handle the transportation of your special needs kids? Have you found any particularly clever or innovative solutions? Share your ideas in the comments below!